Representatives of the UISG at the Holy See Press Office Representatives of the UISG at the Holy See Press Office 

UISG Assembly: ‘Embracing vulnerability on the Synodal journey’

The International Union of Superiors General prepares to holds its 22nd plenary assembly on 2-6 May in Rome, and presents its work to reporters at the Holy See Press Office.

By Paolo Ondarza

Vulnerability and Synodality—These are the two cornerstones forming the basis of the upcoming general meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), a forum for heads of Catholic institutes of women religious.

The UISG hosted a press conference in the Holy See Press Office on Friday to present the aims of its 22nd Plenary Assembly.

The meeting’s focus comes as a result of the experience of vulnerability humanity has experienced over the past two years, which have been marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, and the Church’s journey toward the Synod of Bishops on Synodality in 2023.

Authority and service

The pandemic "has made our fragility even more evident," said UISG President Sister Jolanta Kafka in her remarks.

Religious life, too, she said, is vulnerable: "We are going through a moment of crisis” and a process of transformation, and so women religious must “reinterpret the exercise of leadership—the mission of authority as service—in the spirit of the Gospel and the Synod."

Every religious family, said Sister Kafka, needs to "respond to the cry of God in the needy and fragile," but often, she admitted, "we have placed ourselves on the side of the needy from a position of power."

On the other hand, being vulnerable requires women religious to engage in relationship, an experience which allows a consecrated person to see that they cannot do it alone without the help of God.

For this reason, added Sister Kafka, the Superior Generals accept Jesus’ invitation to walk alongside the marginalized and excluded, while discerning, proclaiming the Gospel, and placing Christ at the center.


Recognizing that we are vulnerable requires courage, according to Sister Mary Kudiyiruppil, UISG Deputy Executive Secretary.

"Faith in God, prayer, assurance of being called, and sent by God and the Church” are the prerequisites for consecrated life, which however make it more difficult to “appear vulnerable.”

Yet, she added, statistics on religious life today show that congregations are indeed experiencing vulnerability.

“Embracing vulnerability is different from merely tolerating or enduring it… It is about recognizing, owning, befriending and being at ease with being vulnerable. And in this honest encounter, there is power, healing and hope.”

Communion and inclusion

Women religious, therefore, are called to continue along the synodal journey, which has been rooted in the UISG’s goals since its inception in 1956, while recognizing their vulnerability in order to respond to the challenges of our contemporary world.

According to Sister Franca Zonta, Superior General of the Marianist Sisters, walking together means living "the communion of different charisms, participating and sharing experiences, and pooling resources for the mission that today requires synergy, inclusion, and integration.”

Sister Zonta warned against understanding synodality as merely a fashionable word. On the contrary, she said, synodality challenges Catholics to bring about a "change of mentality" and a "new way of conceiving leadership."

"Interculturality," an important part of religious life, is therefore "a great opportunity to experience the reality of Pope Francis’ dream as expressed in Fratelli tutti."

Synodal journey already underway

These various aspects of religious life are already embodied in concrete initiatives carried out by women religious congregations.

UISG Executive Secretary, Sister Pat Murray, cited a few: Catholic Care for Children International (CCCI) initiated in several African countries and now introduced in Asia as well with the aim of promoting family-based child care rather than orphanages; the Commission for Care and Safeguarding; the Sister Advocating organization, an initiative to protect the most vulnerable; the Laudato si’ platform to respond to Pope Francis' call to personal and communal ecological conversion; and, the commitment in favor of elderly sisters around the world, with special attention to forms of cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's.

Plenary Assembly stats

Out of a total of 1,900 Superiors General, around 700 will take part in the UISG Plenary Assembly.

About 520 of these will be physically present at the Hotel Ergife in Rome, where the encounter will be held on 2-6 May. Other Superiors General will connect remotely.

The women religious taking part represent 71 nationalities, of which Europe is most represented, given that many General Houses are located on the Old Continent.

29 April 2022, 12:56